In defence of the dismal science
In a guest article in The Economist, Robert Lucas, the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, rebuts criticisms that the financial crisis represents a failure of economics.
What can the public reasonably expect of specialists in these areas, and how well has it been served by them in the current crisis?
One thing we are not going to have, now or ever, is a set of models that forecasts sudden falls in the value of financial assets, like the declines that followed the failure of Lehman Brothers in September. This is nothing new. It has been known for more than 40 years and is one of the main implications of Eugene Fama’s “efficient-market hypothesis” (EMH), which states that the price of a financial asset reflects all relevant, generally available information. If an economist had a formula that could reliably forecast crises a week in advance, say, then that formula would become part of generally available information and prices would fall a week earlier. (The term “efficient” as used here means that individuals use information in their own private interest. It has nothing to do with socially desirable pricing; people often confuse the two.)
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